On June 27th, over 60 Veteran hikers and dedicated volunteers gathered in Puerto Rico to hike for the Irreverent Warrior cause - prevent Veteran suicide through connection, camaraderie, and humor.
VET Tv is the proud National Sponsor for Irreverent Warriors in 2021. In addition to a $25,000 donation matching initiative, every ticket to an IW Silkies Hike comes with a free month subscription to VET Tv. REDEEM yours using code 2021PUERTORICO.
The hike started and ended at the Castillo San Felipe Del Morro, an iconic PR site. Del Morro is a Spanish Fort dating back to the 16th-century when Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony. The route took the group through Old San Juan, along the famous Low Road, and the scenic High Road, where the hike got some killer views of Old San Juan and the Oceanfront.
Along the way, stops were made at some historic local landmarks: Fortazela - the Governor of Puerto Rico's palace, Capitolo - the Capital building, Castillo de San Cristobal - another Historic Spanish Fort, and La Perla - a historic and scenic shanty town. Hikers got a taste of some Traditional, Authentic Puerto Rican cuisine at the afterparty, courtesy of Cinema Bar.
"Obstacles and challenges may have been in our way from the get-go. However, if we can positively change and impact Veterans for the greater good, every obstacle is worth the pain and frustration along the way in order to achieve a successful outcome."
The mission of every IW hike is the same – prevent Veteran suicide by bringing Vets together with humor and camaraderie. This hike was one non-stop funny, emotional, supportive moment – but there were a few that warrant specific mention.
At the end of the hike, the team witnessed two hikers hugging and laughing hysterically. It was assumed they knew each other prior to the hike... turns out that wasn't the case. The two had just met, but as is typical of a Silkies hike, there was an instant connection and friendship formed. It was one of those moments where you just knew the mission was successful.
We got to enjoy great support from more than a few local organizations, but a special moment was the Photo Ops in front of the Castillo Del Morro with members of the local fire department and the Puerto Rico Police Department. To top it off, hikers were saluted by a scheduled fly-over of a Coast Guard MH60 Jayhawk following the Hike and Tug-o-War competition at the end of the day. It was the perfect send-off to a great day.
The best thing about Silkies hikes are that we all become family. Seeing some of the same hikers year after year, it's just a different type of bond. Doug Capazzi, our national coordinator, has been a staple in the IW community for some time. It also happens that Doug - for who knows how long - thought that 'Chimichurri' - a delicious Spanish sauce - was actually pronounced Chimmi Chonga. So, because we couldn't let him live that down, he was gifted a bright pink shirt for this hike with 'CHIMMI CHONGA' across the back. You know, to make it easy to ID him. Everyone wanted to know the story behind it, and every volunteer and coordinator was more than happy to oblige.
Huge shout out to a few local businesses who made generous donations to make this hike what it was.
Coast Guard Exchange
Wheelworks (Garden Grove, CA)
2 Brothers Pizza & Subs (Salem, CT)
This hike would not have been possible without our other amazing sponsors & donors.
Veteran Television (VET Tv) - our National Presenting Sponsor this year who donated Free Silkies to giveaway at the hike, and handed out a free month of VET Tv (seriously, did you redeem yours yet?? 2021PUERTORICO) to every hiker. VET Tv was set up with merch, stickers, and great conversation with hikers.
Navy League - Vieques Council
Coast Guard Riders
Chief Petty Officers Association
Who Made it Possible
Mario Cima (USCG) - Lead Coordinator
Anselmo Martinez (USCG) - Assistant Coordinator (and first time hiker)
Jesse Wilde (USGC) - Assistant Coordinator (and first time hiker)
Shane Caraway (BM) - Assistant Coordinator (and first time hiker)
Jessica Law- Assistant Coordinator (and first time hiker)
Even though this team was comprised of mostly first-time hikers and coordinators, the dedication they showed was undeniable. This wasn't an easy hike to put on due to COVID restrictions, and having to obtain no less than 10 permits for it to go off without a hitch. But each member of the team was more than happy to do more than their part, making sure everything was coordinated perfectly so that we met every guideline, got every permit and spoke to every necessary organization and person. Not to mention that almost every team member is Active Duty, so they did this all while maintaining their normal responsibilities. Hats off to every one of you - this would have never been possible without all your hard work!
JOIN THE DEBAUCHERY
If you want to get involved, reach out to lead coordinator Mari Cima directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're looking for more hikes to attend this year (we certainly wouldn't blame you) you can find events in your area on the Irreverent Warriors website.
97% of the proceeds we raise at Irreverent Warriors goes directly to our mission - prevent Veteran suicide through connection, camaraderie, and humor. We're not into spreading awareness - we're into making a difference.
One Shared MissionaVET Tv is the proud National Sponsor for Irreverent Warriors in 2021. In addition to a $25,000 donation matching initiative, every ticket to an IW Silkies Hike comes with a free month subscription to VET Tv.
***Blog Photo Credit*** The photos used in this blog are photos collected from those shared by hikers, coordinators, volunteers, and attendees of Silkies Hikes. If you'd like individual credit for a photo that shared, please reach out at email@example.com so we can accredit it.